Saturday, May 28, 2005

Reflections on Eighteen Years

Eighteen years ago today, my first daughter was born. Wow, that seems like forever right now! I remember clearly the night that she was born. I watched television at home until about eight o'clock, even though I had known for several days that I was having mild labor pains. Talking with my doctor several times each day had reassured me that it was OK to wait awhile longer at home.

We finally drove to the hospital at about eight-thirty, and found one of the biggest crowds in maternity that our local hospital had ever seen. There wasn't a spare labor room, so I spent quite a bit of time on a gurney in the hallway! It was ridiculously hot, and the air conditioning system wasn't functioning right. I was very sick for some reason, even though I hadn't eaten all day long.

Baby was born around 2:30 in the morning and I remember being very glad to see her. Of course, she was absolutely perfect and it was love at first sight. Her daddy followed her as the nurses took her off for her tests and measuring, and he tells to this day about how they held her upside down by her ankles and she looked right into his eyes from across the room as if to ask "How could you let them DO this to me??" Her eyes were a remarkable shade of bright dark blue, a shade that I've only seen on each of my other two daughters in the first day or two after they were born. I guess children who have very dark brown eyes are born with that eye color and it changes to brown far more quickly than usual.

It was a few hours later that the medical team let us know that the baby was fairly jaundiced, and would have to spend time under special lights to regulate her blood chemicals. She looked quite like a little porn star, lying there under the lamps with her diaper off under her and small sunshades over her teensy eyes. One of the treatments for the jaundice at that time was to limit her nursing from me, so she also was having her first bottles at that time.

The next day, her pediatrician informed us that she had some looseness in her hip joints that could be a mild dysplasia, and he recommended that she wear a soft brace for the first few weeks of her life. At that point, the stress of the entire experience was too much for me, so I politely said, "Excuse me a minute," and burst into tears. I remember that he was sort of surprised by my orderly and short breakdown...he told me later that it was completely different than the response he was expecting.

The little one had to stay in the hospital for several days after I was released, so, sore and tired as I was, I made the trip back into town (about a half hour's ride over some bumpy country roads) three times each day to be with her and feed her a few times. We made our last trip at about eleven at night, just before the hospital was trying to settle the nursery for the evening. Lo and behold, there was her doctor doing his evening rounds. He said, "You know, her levels are lower now-would you like to take her home?" Of course, we answered. Then we both realized that we had absolutely nothing with us except the carseat that she would need because we were under the impression that she wouldn't be released until the next day.

I always wondered how the hospital handled cases like this, where the new parents weren't prepared to take baby when the time came. Never thought I'd be one of them, though! It turns out that they have packets of supplies for indigent parents-handmade baby blankets, a gown, and little tiny footies to keep the new baby warm. A local church's women's group keeps the hospital supplied with these items as a charitable project. The quilt and gown were beautifully made, and you have no idea how much I appreciated those women at that very moment. I'm not sure how we would've managed otherwise. When life settled down a few weeks later, we sent a generous financial donation to help them continue their work and show our appreciation, figuring that most of the families who use their items probably are not in a position to help like that.

Our little one got home after midnight that night. She was wide awake and ready for action, and I don't think any of us slept a wink that entire night. Maybe it was the quiet of her new home that threw her, or perhaps the darkness. Hospital nurseries, at least eighteen years ago, were quite bright even at night, and there is always some activity making small noises. I guess in addition, she was used to being under those Billi lights to help with her jaundice, so maybe the darkness really did bother her. Who knows? In any case, she was quite unhappy for quite a few hours after we tried to settle her into her crib. It was a very long first night home.

Hard to believe that eighteen years have passed since then. That teensy little baby wearing that brace has grown into a successful and competent young woman. She's graduating from high school tomorrow, and will be leaving for college in a few short months. She's tackled challenges and learned and grown and is ready to take on adult responsibilities (at least sort of!). Her father and I are very proud of her, and we tell her regularly.

I guess the ending moral of this little piece of prose is "Don't blink or you'll miss it." Don't spend your time wishing that your baby will hurry up and grow up. It happens all too fast as it is, and before you know it, you'll be launching your baby out into the world the way that we are. It's exciting, but it's a little bit sad, too. Life moves on!

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